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82        HISTORY OF WESTERN EDUCATION

to the Athenaeum, chiding as they went those who were slow of
foot; and it was not only the Greek-educated people, but even
those who had been taught only Latin at Rome, who were filled
with this zeal."*   It is little wonder that in such an atmosphere
neither literature nor philosophy nor any solid intellectual concern
could flourish.   An educational system with verbal eloquence as
its highest ideal was condemned to decay and death by its remote-
ness from the realities of life and by its own inner barrenness.
But even when this degenerate education seemed to be all-
powerful, a new moral and intellectual force was being set free
by the progress of Christianity throughout the Empire, which
was destined ere long to bring back something of serious purpose
to pagan education, and which but for the downfall of the
imperial system would ultimately have changed the  whole
character of the schools.   In the First Century, most of the
followers of the new faith had been poor and illiterate.   Not
many wise after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble,
had part in the Christian calling.f  But as time went on, Christ-
ianity appealed more and more to the best in all social ranks,
including not a few who were well versed in the " wisdom of the
world."    These people were not willing that their children
should be ignorant and uneducated and even if they had been,
the needs of the growing Church to meet the paganism entrenched
in the schools with its own weapons would have made it im-
possible for them to ignore the current education.   Grammar
and rhetoric might be distasteful because of their formality
and insincerity, and the pagan ideas and customs that pervaded
the teaching of them might be contrary to the spirit of the new
religion.   But if the Christians were to be educated at all, to the
schools they must go for their education.

Faced with the dilemma of a pagan education or no education
at all, most of them sent their children to the schools. Even the
uncompromising Tertullian, the founder of Western Christianity
(born circa 160), who called philosophers blockheads and pro-
nounced the learning of secular literature " folly with God/1
agreed that there was no other course open for them. The tractate
on Idolatry, which he wrote near the end of the Second Century,
throws an interesting sidelight on the difficulty of the practical
problem for the Christian community of his time. He is quite
* Walden, The Universities of Ancient Greece, p, 236,              f 1 Corę> i, 26.